The lunar caves could house human colonies

Numerous lunar caves discovered thanks to the images of the probes present stable conditions: they could host future colonies of explorers

When, in the Sixties, the first images taken by the probes that had approached the Moon arrived, some caves were identified that from the surface penetrated into the lunar crust. It was understood almost immediately that those lunar caves were the result of the collapse of the roof of “lava tubes”, structures that had formed when the lava flowed there.

DOWN THE ROOF. On its way, the upper part cooled quickly forming a tunnel inside which the lava continues to flow until the end of the eruption. In many cases the end result was a real tunnel that ran for hundreds of meters or kilometers. Somewhere the roof collapsed in some places, giving rise to openings that allow you to enter these caves.

Now the CU Boulder researchers have decided to test what the environment inside some of those caves might be like. The preliminary results of the working group suggest that the environmental conditions within those structures are remarkably stable. “They don’t seem to be experiencing the large temperature changes that the satellite’s surface is normally subjected to,” said Andrew Wilcoski, of CU Boulder’s Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.

Yes, because “as you approach the equator, surface temperatures can reach and exceed 100 degrees Celsius during the day and drop as low as 170 degrees Celsius below zero at night,” Wilcoski said. The temperature in the caves, on the other hand, seems to support relatively stable environments.

An impressive lunar cave with a diameter of about 100 meters

THE ENTRANCE. A simulation showed that most caves could have temperatures between –120 ° C and –70 ° C during the entire lunar day (which lasts approximately 28 days). It is worth bearing in mind, however, that near the entrance to these caves the conditions are greatly influenced by the way in which the sun’s rays arrive.

Wells and caves are potentially ideal locations for the space colonies of the future. They are naturally welcoming places where men could be protected from the dangerous radiation of the Sun and space in general, as well as from meteorites, even small ones, which reach the surface intact on the Moon since, unlike the Earth, there is no atmosphere capable of burning them.

The question is whether in these caves there may also be resources useful to astronauts during their stay, such as ice from which water could be obtained to drink, to use for personal hygiene or to produce rocket fuel.

NO WATER, BUT … The computer simulations, however, say that these are not the places to look directly for water. An interesting possibility, would be to establish a protected base inside a lunar shaft or cave that is near one of the polar craters containing water ice and use it to store the ice collected outside.

At the moment, no one knows how many wells and caves might be hiding on the moon. A survey carried out a few years ago, analyzing with great attention the lunar photos available, found more than 200. Most of them were between 400 meters and a few meters wide. All in all suitable, therefore, to be able to host an entire human base within them.

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